A group of lawyers from across the country have written a letter to the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, pressing on the need for urgent and systemic changes in the treatment of survivors of violent sexual crimes in the Araria District Court, Bihar.
The letter has been written in the backdrop of a 'disturbing incident' whereby a Judicial Magistrate remanded a gang rape victim and her two caregivers into custody, allegedly after perceiving her disoriented state of mind as a personal affront, while recording her statement under Section 164 of CrPC.
The lawyers have asserted that it was only fourth day since the incident of gangrape and the matter should have been dealt with 'some sensitivity'. However, instead of understanding their "fragile state" the letter states,
"they were first remanded to police custody. It may be pointed out that no Covid test was conducted on the survivor, even though she had been gang-raped by several strangers. Within hours, and while the three were in police custody, exaggerated accounts of what had transpired during the proceedings were reported on electronic media, together with complete details about the survivor, including her father's name and her complete address."
They have alleged that the three were taken into custody on July 10 but an FIR for the contempt case was filed only on the next day, that too at a Police station that does not have jurisdiction in the area where the Court is situated. Further, the witnesses were made to sign on a "blank arrest memo".
Later, the three were produced before the court and were remanded into judicial custody to the District Jail in Dalsinghsarai, 240Kms away.
The lawyers contend that remand into judicial custody is "excessive" and "harsh" given the circumstances.
When her statement was being recorded by the Magistrate, the lawyers aver,
"The survivor 'A' was completely distraught and also very disoriented. She was not eating or sleeping, and also in physical pain. In the course of the four days, she had had to repeat her experience to sundry personnel, often only for voyeuristic purposes. She had been totally dependent, emotionally, on her caregivers since the incident, and they were also traumatized and exhausted. We respectfully submit that any perceived disrespect must be viewed from this perspective."
The survivor and her care givers have been booked under also under Section 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), Section 228 (Intentional insult or interruption to public servant sitting in judicial proceeding) and Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of IPC.
While the latter two offences are bailable, the lawyers have expressed that the allegation of 'assualt or use of criminal force' on the Magistrate seems "most implausible".
"The survivor's emotional state is extremely fragile and we fear that the separation from her caregivers and incarceration will have an adverse affect on her health," the lawyers said.
The lawyers have urged the Court to intervene into the matter and create a "robust criminal justice system", which is responsive to the needs of survivors of violent sexual crimes.
The letter has been endorsed by 376 lawyers.
Click Here To Download Letter